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The Community Equity Pipeline Makes the Legislative Process More Accessible

July 16, 2015
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How a bill becomes a lawRecently the CURA Community Programs staff collaborated with the Wilder Foundation on their pilot program, the Community Equity Pipeline (CEP). This program is a public policy and leadership development program that engages community leaders from the Twin Cities metropolitan area in the political processes that play out during the state’s legislative session. The program’s vision is to increase decision-making power for communities of color at the state capitol by fostering a cohort learning community in which participants learn the technical skills and knowledge needed to successfully navigate the legislative session. Additionally, participants take part in an immersive learning experience that allows them to use their experiential expertise to achieve more impactful legislative outcomes as they advance policies impacting communities of color. 

The CEP grew out of a series of think tank sessions that the Wilder Foundation hosted at which 30 community leaders, trainers, organizers, legislative advocates, nonprofit directors, and others explored the question: “What is necessary to increase the power of communities of color at the Minnesota State Capitol?” Participants identified eight essential areas on which to focus, one of which included a community training for organizers and leaders that could give them tools to strengthen themselves as legislative advocates, better understand political dynamics, and authentically engage grassroots community leaders in public policy.

This 2015 legislative session is the inaugural year of the CEP pilot. Prior to the start of the legislative session, fifteen CEP participants went through a four-day intensive training covering the structure of Minnesota state government, the legislative process and timeline, levers of power and influence, the role of advocates, and various other public policy issues. After the training, cohort members joined advocacy coalitions and others working to create bills and shepherd them through the Minnesota House and Senate committee and voting process. 

Throughout the legislative session, fellows have continued to receive ongoing training and support from the program facilitators, their partner lobbyists and coalitions, as well as their fellow participants as they support efforts to pass bills focused on education, children, housing, economic stability, health equity, and more. As the legislative session wraps up, the Wilder Foundation plans to use the learnings and recommendations from the first cohort and an evaluation done by Wilder Research to inform the future of the CEP. 

To support the rollout of the pilot program, CURA staff partnered with the Wilder Foundation to create several tools for the CEP training, including infographics and other visual pieces to clarify the legislative process. 

This work is part of CURA’s CURA:Tech effort, which began as a civic technology incubator and small grants program, and now offers technical assistance to community partners. University of Minnesota students and staff work with partners to make complex information (such as quantitative data, policies, and other processes) easier to understand through data visualization and graphic design techniques. CURA:Tech works closely with CURA’s established Community Geographic Information Systems program. For more information, contact Kristen Murray or visit www.cura.umn.edu/curatech.

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